Ku Klux Klan leaders have reacted angrily to calls that they remove their hoods when in public. ‘It’s an outrageous infringement of our civil liberties,’ said Grand Wizard Billy Barr Jnr. ‘It’s part of our culture, our belief system and our heritage that when whipping up racial hatred we wear a big white pointy hood.’
The row has grown since last week when Home Secretary Jack Straw said that it is perfectly possible to incite racists without covering your face up. ‘When I’m chatting with members of a white supremacist organisation, I want to be able to see their expression. So when Klan members come to my surgery, I ask them to take their hoods off.’
Labour MP Phil Woolas also criticised the wearing of traditional Ku Klux Klan headgear. ‘How can they do their jobs properly with restricted vision? They might set fire to the wrong cross.’
In their native Alabama, it is perfectly normal for Klansmen to go about their everyday business of stirring up hatred of blacks, Jews and Catholics wearing white robes, a hood and a big red and white cross that doesn’t look like a swastika at all. But since increasing numbers of them have settled in the UK, they have struggled to integrate into mainstream society where they have faced ignorance and prejudice about the cultural significance of their apparel. But with Klan attitudes to racial and religious minorities gaining wider currency by the day, the hoods are now seen as an unnecessary barrier. ‘What we want to say to these guys is that we’re all the same inside,’ said the Home Secretary. ‘If Labour MPs can whip up racism and anti-Islamic sentiment in normal attire, why should we make an exception for the Ku Klux Klan?’
Following the public’s reaction to their comments, Jack Straw and Phil Woolas have taken to wearing the Islamic ‘niqab’ or full veil, as they are now too ashamed to show their faces in public.